Alternative Road Trip
From Norwalk to Danbury Without a Car
Cars have turned us bipedal creatures into singularly sedentary drones. Not so long ago, men, women, and children got about under their own steam. They stood erect and slim as they tended their lower 40 or walked where they needed to go. Today, with all the sitting we do at work or in front of a computer or TV, men, women, and children cast a hunched and significantly larger shadow.
Sadly, it is a shadow that includes not only our growing girth but an increase in pollution from our mechanized chariots. Happily, there is a solution: get out of the car. That is the purpose of the proposed Norwalk River Valley Trail (NRVT), a multi-use regional trail connecting Norwalk, Wilton, Ridgefield, Redding, and Danbury.
Once known as the Greenway, the approximately 25-mile route would be used for walking, hiking, jogging, biking, and ideally, for commuters to reach train stations. Starting at Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk, it would link existing trails, such as the Ives Trail in Ridgefield, with paved and unpaved sections bordered by natural, self-renewing landscaping. Each town would manage its own section, following the wishes of its residents.
“There’ll be stretches of the NRVT in all five towns. Since the residents are going to decide what they want, the trail may be slightly different from one area to another. We have the support of the Public Transportation Commission and all five towns’ mayors and selectmen,” notes Ben Oko, chairman of Ridgefield’s Conservation Commission and one of Ridgefield’s representatives.
“The first step is a routing study of the area,” explains Wilton’s director of environmental affairs, Patricia Sesto, who heads up the five-town committee formed last October. “We’ve asked the Connecticut DEP for $180,000 to conduct the routing study. You have to demonstrate broad public appeal and transportation alternatives, allocating at least one percent of the total cost to improving pedestrian travel.” Dr. Oko adds, “This will be a citizen-volunteer effort, not a tax burden. Funding will be a mix of public/private/corporate sources.”
Dan Landau, representing Norwalk on the committee, has always been interested in expanding trails in his town. “There’s a trail starting at Lockwood Matthews Mansion and connecting to the back of the YMCA. This could be utilized for the NRVT,” he says.
Michael Lindberg, who heads up Wilton’s Energy Commission, says, “One of the best things we can do is to increase pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Transportation is key to the long-term energy plan we’re developing.” Still, there are many issues to be addressed such as easements, maintenance costs, and safe connections to train stations.
Mike Cunningham, the Danbury representative and chairman of the Ives Trail Task Force, which currently connects Ridgefield, Redding, and Danbury, knows that implementing the NRVT is going to take time, but he is optimistic. “Since I live in Danbury and work in Wilton, I’d love to bike to work,” he says.